Hal Harmon, the founding artistic director for the Emerald Theatre Company (ETC), deliberates for a moment. "You could call it the gay man's Rocky Horror Picture Show," he says, trying to explain the phenomenon of Del Shores' sordid comedy Sordid Lives, which he's staging for the third time at TheatreWorks. "That sounds redundant," he corrects, trying to get things exactly right. "It's the Southern gay man's Rocky Horror Picture Show," he concludes, with a strong emphasis on Southern.
Den-Nickolas Smith agrees. Smith, who co-founded the 17-year-old ETC with Harmon, is once again appearing as Brother Boy, a man who has spent 23 years in an asylum because he thinks he's Tammy Wynette. "There are clubs for people in the LGBT community — but mostly gay men — where they get together and watch the movie once a month," he says. "And everybody can quote their favorite Brother Boy lines."
The story goes something like this: While engaging in an extra-marital affair, Peggy, a woman known throughout the community for being a good Christian woman, stumbles over her lover's wooden legs in a dark Texas motel room and dies. From there, things get complicated and weird.
Smith says he's making Brother Boy his own, even though the film is such a cult classic and there's some pressure to give audiences what they want and just do Leslie Jordan doing Tammy.
"Del Shores was brilliant to have Brother Boy associate with Tammy Wynette," Smith says. "She had such a hard life. Married to George Jones. And the alcoholism. But she was a survivor."
"Sordid Lives" at TheatreWorks, March 14th-16th, $18. All tickets are sold at the door.